17 Famous French stinky cheeses adored in France, feared by others

stinky French cheese

The stinky French cheese on this list may smell strong, but they taste amazing to some people (and horrible to others.) From cow’s milk to sheep’s milk, these are some of the best and stinkiest French cheeses from France that even the bravest cheese lover might be afraid of adding to their cheese plate. 

Smelly Stinky feet cheese:

I once asked my son to wash his feet because they smelled terrible.

It turned out that it wasn’t his feet that I was smelling; it was the stinky cheese that my daughter was eating that reeked. Oops.

That was one of my first experiences with smelly French cheese. Not blue stinky cheese, but really strong stinky cheese that you can smell in the next room.

I’ve since gone on to try many different kinds of famous stinky cheeses, most are from France since that is where I  live. 

My love for stinky French cheese was not instant and my journey of learning to love stinky cheese hasn’t always been easy. Some stinky cheese I fell in love with, while others not so much. 

What’s the deal with very stinky cheese?

France is known for producing the most varieties of cheese yet somehow staying thin while eating a lot of cheese.

French people eat nearly 27kg of cheese per person per year, according to CNIEL (National Interprofessional Center for the Dairy Economy.)

Of the estimated 1200 plus cheese types produced in France, stinky cheese stands out as a class of its own. 

Some types of stinky French cheese are so strong; their aroma can impregnate your clothes, carpet, curtains or contaminate your refrigerator. That’s probably why some popular searches on google in France relate to “getting rid of funky cheese odours.”

What makes cheese stinky?

what's the deal with smell cheese?

The smelliest cheeses are often made with raw milk or unpasteurized milk.

Another factor linked to stinky cheese is the way it’s produced.

Specifically, soft cheeses whose rinds are washed in brine or cheeses intentionally smeared with a bacteria as they ripen called brevibacterium linen aka b linens. B linens are also responsible for the orange colour associated with some funky smelling and pungent cheese

Ever wonder why cheese sometimes smells like feet or dirty gym socks? The bacteria b.linens added to some cheese also causes foot-odour in humans. 

Other stinky cheeses such as Brie and blue cheese have a species of Fungi added rather than bacteria.

Many smelly French cheeses are banned outside of France

Many countries such as the US and China restrict the importation of unpasteurized cheese. 

The US FDA bans certain French cheeses like Roquefort blue cheese not only because it is made with unpasteurized cheese but because E. coli bacteria are present, even though it’s the harmless version.

Buyer beware of super stinky cheese with vague, flowery wording

Stinky cheese isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a smelly cheese is a sign that a cheese tastes great.

I know this because I’ve tried most of the cheeses on this list.

The majority of a cheese’s stinkiness is in the rind, while the cheese itself has a pleasantly mild flavour.

But sometimes, a stinky cheese’s funky flavour matches its pungent smell.

To each his own.

I’m perfectly ok eating stinky cheese as long as it has a mild flavour, but it’s the stinky ones that taste the same way they smell that I can’t swallow (literally.)

Unfortunately, you never really know if a stinky cheese is mild enough or to your liking until you try it because some cheese sellers and cheese connaisseurs like to describe stinky artisan cheeses with very vague and flowery language that sound nice. 

You’ll see or hear benign words thrown around to describe stinky cheese such as “mushroomy,” “earthy,” “smells of the farm,” “barnyard,” “grassy,” pastures,” “slightly ammoniated,” “meaty,” “bacony,” and my favourite is “unforgettable aroma. ”

Don’t those words sound nice? 

Don’t be fooled.

These are just lovely flowery words used to describe a stinky cheese. I had to learn this the hard way. 

Love them or fear them, here’s my round-up of some of France’s stinkiest cheese plus one stinky cheese that’s been banned because it’s considered dangerous for consumption. 

stinky cheeses from France

Stinky Cheese List: The best of France’s smelliest cheeses

For each of the different types of stinky cheese on this list, I’ve included some useful information such as the region where the smelly cheese was produced, whether it’s AOC protected, type of milk used if it’s a hard stinky cheese or soft stinky cheese, type of rind treatment and a photo of. 

1) Vieux-Boulogne (Stinkiest cheese in the world “maybe”)

  • Aroma: stinky,  fermented, pungent, intense, strong.
  • Soft Cheese: Smear ripened cheese
  • Rind is washed with beer
  • Unpasteurized cows milk
  • from Boulogne sur Mer, Pas de Calais
  • Aged 7 to 9 weeks

Vieux-Boulogne: Really stinky French cheese

Vieux-Boulogne is a square shaped artisinal stinky cheese with an orange rind. It was first made in 1982 in the Pas-de-Calais département around Boulogne-sur-Mer.

According to research conducted by Cranfield University, Vieux Boulogne might be the most stinky cheese in the world. This funky cheese beat out 14 other stinky cheeses including Brie de Meaux, Camembert de Normandie, Munster, and Pont l’Évêque.

The stink factor comes from having its rind washed in beer. When the bacteria in the beer interacts with milk enzymes of the rind, tiny micro-organisms release stinky particles, which are picked up by the nose. 

2) Maroilles cheese or Maroilles Fauquet

  • Aroma: fermented, stinky, pungent, strong
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind 
  • Unpasteurized Cows milk
  • from Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais regions e
  • AOP/AOC
  • aged: 5 weeks to 4 months 

Maroilles French stinky cheese

Maroilles is a semi-soft washed rind cheese from the North of France that is easy to recognize because of its square shape and rind colour, ranging from reddish-orange to yellowish-orange. 

3) Pont l’Evêque (AOP)

  • Aroma: strong and stinky
  • Soft Washed rind cheese Pâte molle à croûte lavée
  • Rind is washed with brine
  • Cows milk
  • from Normandie
  • AOP/AOC
  • Aged 4 to 6 weeks

Pont l'Evêque: Stinky French Cheese

Pont l’Evêque is another square-shaped cheese known as the oldest Norman cheese still in constant production today, having first been made in the 12th century.

It also ranks as one of the most popular cheeses in France.

4) Camembert de Normandie (AOP)

  • Aroma: strong, stinky
  • Soft cheese with natural rind/bloomy rind
  • cows milk
  • from Normandie
  • AOP/AOC
  • Aged 21 days

Camembert de Normandie

It’s Camembert cheese but from Normandie. Camembert cheese looks innocent enough until you cut into it. 

5) Le Vieux Lille

  • Aroma: strong, stinky
  • Soft Washed rind cheese 
  • Cows milk
  • from Avesnois, Hauts de France
  • Aged 3 months

Le Vieux-Lille; French stinky cheese

Vieux Lille, also known as “Puant de Lille” (stink of Lille), is a type of Maroilles cheese that’s salted twice and washed in brine for three months to get its strong flavour and firm and sticky texture. If you like salty stinky cheese, this one is perfect for you. It has a slight ammonia smell to it and a spicy taste. 

6) Boulette d’Avesnes

  • Aroma: strong, stinky
  • Soft cheese: Washed rind
  • Pasteurized Cows milk
  • from hauts de France
  • aged: Sold fresh and should be eaten within 30 days.

Boulette d'Avesnes stinky French cheese

Boulette d’Avesnes, which means “ball from Avesnes,” is from the French village of Avesnes in northern France, which borders the French-Belgian border. 

It has a creamy texture and is well known for its pungent and robust cheese flavour. 

This cheese is also made from Maroilles cheese. It’s flavoured with parsley, pepper, tarragon, cloves and is later shaped into a cone (boulettes) by hand. 

Most boulettes are sold fresh and supposed to be eaten within 30 days. But they can also age quite well in ripening cellars where they develop a reddish colour due to the effect of paprika or annatto, a natural food colouring.

This creamy, fresh cheese is well known for its stinky flavour and goes well with beer. 

7) Epoisses

  • Aroma: pungent, strong, stinky
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind / Smear Ripened
  • Rind is washed with brandy
  • Unpasteurized Cows milk
  • from Burgundy
  • AOP/AOC
  • Aged 4 to 6 weeks
Epoisses-cheese is one of the stinkiest French cheeses in France
Epoisses-cheese

Burgundy is well known for its wine, but it’s also well known for one particular cheese called Epoisses de Borgogne or just Epoisses. 

This AOC demarcated cheese must be made in the village of Époisses or its surrounding area, about halfway between Dijon and Auxerre, in the Burgundy region. 

Epoisses de Borgogne is a soft cheese made from raw cow’s milk which is washed in Marc de Bourgogne (an aged brandy from Burgundy similar to Grappa). The result is a stinky cheese with a salty, creamy texture that oozes out. Époisses cheese is sold in thin round wooden boxes to prevent it from spilling out. 

8) Le Trou du Cru

  • Aroma: pungent, strong, stinky
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind
  • pasteurized cows milk
  • from Bourgogne: Burgundy
  • Aged 3 weeks t

le trou du cru stinky cheese

Trou du Cru is a miniaturized version of Epoisses cheese made from pasteurized cows milk and is sometimes called “petite Epoisses.”At the end of maturation, it will have an edible orange rind and a strong, pungent aroma.

This cheeses name “Trou de Cru” literally means “raw hole.” It’s a play on the French word “trou de Cul, which means “hole of the ass. In other words, “asshole.

9) Munster

  • Aroma: pungent, strong, stinky
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind /Smear Ripened
  • Rind washed in brine
  • Unpasteurized Cows milk
  • from Alsace Lorraine, north-east France
  • AOP/AOC
  • aged 3 to five weeks for the smaller formats (roughly 300 g) and up to 2 to 3 months for the larger format.

munster stinky cheese

Munster cheese from Eastern France, not to be confused with the milder tasting American Muenster cheese, was originally made by Benedictine monks as early as 1371. 

Like Epoisses cheese, Munster cheese is made from unpasteurized cows’ milk, but it’s swashed in wine instead of aged marc de Bourgogne brandy.

Then it’s left to age for three weeks to three months in humid caves in Alsace in northeastern France near the German border, where it’s also known as Menschterkaas.

The atmosphere of the high-humidity caves allows the cheese to sweat, which adds that funky and pungent je ne sais quoi aroma. 

10) Livarot

  • Aroma: pungent, strong
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind Pâte
  • Rind is washed with brine
  • can be made with pasteurized and unpasteurized Cows milk
  • AOP/AOC
  • From Livarot, in Normandy
  • Aged 3 months

Livarot: French stinky cheese

Named after a market town in Normandie, Livarot has been made for around 700 years.

It’s easily distinguished by its orange washed rind wrapped in 3 to 5 rings of dried water sedge leave, which looks similar to raffia. Originally, Livarot was wrapped to help the cheese keep its shape, but today, it’s for tradition rather than function, and it’s one of the AOC label requirements. Another strict AOC requirement is that Livarot cheeses must be made within a 12-mile radius of Livarot and use cow’s milk from Normandy.

It has a stinky and pungent aroma, but the cheese itself tastes mild. As it ages, it gets gooier and runnier. 

11) Le Langres

  • Aroma: strong, stinky
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind 
  • mostly  Pasteurized Cows milk
  • from Champagne-Ardenne
  • AOP/AOC
  • aged

Le Langres: Stinky French cheese

Le Langres comes from the Langres plateau in the region of Champagne-Ardenne in northeastern France. It’s shaped into a small cylinder the size of a tiny cupcake with a concave top, and its colouring ranges from yellow to orange. Like Brie cheese and Camembert cheese, the rind is formed by introducing Penicillium camemberti, a species of fungus.

The result is a slightly crumbly, creamy, salty, and pungent cheese. 

12) Crottin de Chavignol.

  • Aroma: Mild to extra stinky with a touch of goaty smell
  • Soft Goat Cheese
  • Unpasteurized Goats milk
  • from Berry near Sancerre in the Loire Valley
  • AOP/AOC
  • Aged: can be eaten at different ages: 1 week to 4 + months. 

Crottin de Chavignol stinky French cheese

As the old saying goes, dynamite comes in small packages, and that’s the best way to describe Crottin de Chavignol, which translates to English as “Chavignol dung.”

This little stinky cheese is cylinder-shaped and about half the size of a baseball and is one of the rare cheeses you can eat at various stages of maturity.  

At its youngest stage, it’s mild and nutty with a soft white and wrinkly rind.

As it ages, its smell starts getting stronger, and it becomes crumbly. If left to ripen longer, its rind begins to harden, and it goes through different stages and can develop a bluish colour and blue mould. 

The stinkiest version of crottin de Chavignal is called repassée. 

After it’s been aged for a few weeks, it’s placed in stone jars and aged for two to four months or more. Its rind will become darker, from dark chestnut to charcoal colour. This is when the stinkified cheese is at its ripest with the most intense flavours. The fat migrates to the outside, and the rind and cheese fuse together. The result is a crumbly and creamy textured cheese that will put hair on your chest.

Crottin de Chavignol, at any age, is ubiquitous in France and a very versatile cheese. It can be served baked as a starter, as an ingredient in a recipe or served at room temperature on a cheeseboard

13) Banon

  • Aroma: strong, stinky, goaty
  • Soft Goat Cheese
  • Goats milk
  • From Isère, Rhone Alps
  • AOP/AOC 
  • Aged 1 to 2 weeks

Banon stinky cheese

Banon cheese goes back to Roman times. It’s made from unpasteurized, unpressed, whole goat‘s milk, ripened in brown chestnut leaves and tied up with twine made from natural raffia.

It has a soft creamy texture that tastes like hay and bacon with hints of chestnut leaves, generally sharp and pungent. If you don like the way goat cheese tastes, then stay away because Banon is very goaty tasting. 

14) Reblochon

  • Aroma: mild to strong stinky, earthy
  • Soft Cheese: Washed rind
  • Cows milk
  • from Savoie region
  • AOP/AOC
  • Aged 3 to 4 weeks

Reblochon French stinky cheese

Reblochon is a soft washed-rind and smear-ripened cheese made in Savoie in southeastern France.

After it ages for six to eight weeks in an airy cellar to produce a white mould around it, the cheese’s interior softens and develops a nutty taste. 

It melts well and is the star ingredient in Tartiflette, a popular French dish made with Reblochon cheese, potatoes, lardons and onions. 

Tartiflette made with Reblochon cheese

15) Brie de Meaux

  • Aroma: strong, stinky
  • Soft cheese with natural rind/bloomy rind:
  • Cows milk
  • from Meaux, Ile de France, near Paris
  • AOP/AOC
  • aged 4 to 8 weeks

Brie de Meaux stinky french cheese

Brie de Meaux is named after the town of Meaux in the historic Brie region of northern France known for Brie cheese.

This is not the mild brie cheese you find in the United States markets made with pasteurized milk. This Brie cheese is made of raw cow’s milk that ferments in a tank for sixteen hours; then, cheese curds begin to form after about an hour. During production, the whey inside needs to be evacuated, and the cheese gets dried on reed mats then cured for two days.

The whole process lasts for two months, and the result is a very creamy, almost gooey cheese covered in a white mould that some French cheese connoisseurs, like my teen daughter, love to eat. 

16) Saint Marcelin

  • Aroma: Mild to slightly stinky 
  • Soft Cheese with natural rind/bloomy rind:
  • pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk
  • From Isère, Rhône-Alpes
  •  IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée).
  • Aged 28 days minimum.

Saint Marcellin cheese: dry or soft creamy

This mould-ripened cheese is technically in the same family as Brie cheese and Camembert because of the way it’s made, but it’s much, much smaller. 

This cute little wrinkly cheese weighs no more than 80 grammes and can fit in the palm of your hand.  It can be dry or soft and creamy. Sometimes the creamy version comes in a convenient little red terra cotta ramekins because once it warms up, even at room temperature, it becomes ooey-gooey. 

My daughter prefers to put it in the oven for a few minutes so that it’s runny to the max and dunks her bread into the ramekin like its fondu. I always know when she’s eaten some because her mouth reeks of it. 

17) Raclette

  • Aroma: earthy, slightly stinky
  • pressed, semi-firm
  • Cows Milk
  • from Alpes
  • Aged 2 months

Raclette Cheese

Raclette is both a type of hard cheese, and a type of meal served using a raclette machine which you use to melt the cheese tableside and serve with charcuterie and potatoes.  Raclette cheese is a good stinky cheese if you need a melty cheese that doesn’t get too liquidy. You’ll often find it at Christmas markets, on sandwiches. It’s a great winter cheese, especially after a day of skiing, and you can make some kick-butt grill cheese sandwiches with it too. 

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18) Roquefort (stinky blue cheese)

  • Aroma: mild to strong stinky
  • Semi-soft cheese: Blue
  • Raw unpasteurized Sheep’s milk
  • from Roquefort, near Toulouse in Occitaine
  • AOC
  • Aged 3 to 5 months.

Roquefort: French blue cheese

Roquefort is a semi-soft white, tangy and slightly moist blue cheese. It’s an AOC product, so legally, it can only be called Roquefort blue cheese if it comes from the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of southern France.

Technically, blue cheese is not considered a stinky cheese, although that’s how some people often describe its pungent aroma. 

Most stinky cheeses are classified as stinky because they are washed in a brine or alcohol solution and get their stink from bacteria.

Roquefort blue cheese belongs to the group of blue cheeses because of its signature blue-coloured veins, which it gets from the growth of a mould called Roquefort village.  

The Penicillium roqueforti mould used in Roquefort production must be produced in France from the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

Although Roquefort must be made from sheep’s milk, there are other blue cheesemakers who use cow’s milk or goat‘s milk. For instance, Stilton is an English blue cheese made from cow’s milk. 

19) Casgiu Merzu (maggot filled cheese)

Casgiu Merzu Casu Marzu,

Last but not least. 

This next cheese is considered one of the most dangerous cheeses in the world to eat, and for a good reason. It contains living fly larvae that you can see wiggling in the cheese.

This famous larvae cheese is produced off the coast of Italy and France on the French island of Corsica, where it’s called Casgiu Merzu. It’s also been produced on the Italian Island of Sardinia immediately to the south of Corsica, where it’s called Casu marzu.

Both casu marzu and Casgiu Merzu mean rotten cheese in their respective languages.

Although it’s been illegal to sell in the EU since 2005, some families produce it at home for personal consumption from recipes that dates back hundreds of years, but you can find it on the black market for prices that rival truffle prices. 

Casgiu Merzu: stinky cheese with magots from French island of Corsica

Casgiu Merzu is made with pressed sheep milk which is boiled and then put in a brine. Then it’s left to ferment in a cool, dark hut for several months with their tops cut open so that it attracts flies to lay their eggs.

During the ageing process, the larvae hatch, and the maggots begin to eat the cheese and then excrete the cheese back out. Their digestive system breaks down the fatty acids of the cheese and gives it its famous pungent, bitter taste and soft creamy texture. It’s a technique reminiscent of Mimolette cheese, whose rind is covered with mites.

How to store stinky cheese?

Now that you know a little more about stinky French cheeses, you need to know how to store them. Some cheeses keep better than others. Harder pressed cheeses are more resistant to time, unlike soft cheeses with bloomy rinds such as Brie or washed rinds such as Epoisses.

Cheese is a living product made with bacteria or fungi, so it needs to breathe. That’s why enclosing cheese, especially stinky cheese, in an airtight plastic box or packaging is a mistake. It’s best to wrap cheese with cheese paper, baking paper, wax paper, special plastic envelopes for cheese, or even aluminum. 

Once wrapped, store cheese in the refrigerator, preferably in the vegetable drawer. But some cheeses can also be frozen. 

A common problem with loosely wrapped stinky cheese stored in the refrigerator is that the second you open your refrigerator door, you’ll be hit like a ton of bricks by the smell. 

One trick is to keep the cheese under a cheese dome in the fridge or to buy special cheese containers that go into your fridge or a wooden cheese grotto. 

Eat For Your Taste, Not For Others

If funky cheese isn’t your thing, don’t feel compelled to add it to your cheese plate.

There are thousands of varieties of cheese to choose from. Enjoy what you like, not what cheese connoisseurs and critics say are the best. Food is about pleasure and enjoyment. So if you like the cheaper, less stinky cheese, enjoy it. But you owe it to yourself to at least try a few of these stinky cheeses.

The trick is not to breathe through your nose. It really does help. 

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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